Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE MOMENT IN TIME. This was most critical; for:
1. The moment had been anticipated in prophecy. (Jeremiah 25:11, 12; Jeremiah 29:10-14.) How Daniel reckoned the seventy years, and how others did so, must be carefully observed. The deportation to Babylon extended over twenty years; hence different men took a different starting-date whence to reckon the seventy. Daniel reckons from the first siege, the date of his own going into captivity ( B.C. 606). Zechariah from the third siege,
(1) from the beginning of it, B.C. 590 (Zechariah 1:12);
(2) from its close, B.C. 588 (Zechariah 7:1, 5). The prophets wrote each from his own standpoint, and there are no discrepancies, though the critical school tries to create them.
2. It was immediately after the fall of Babylon. (Ver. 1.)
4. It was offered at the exact moment of evening sacrifice. (Ver. 21.)
II. THE FOUNDATION OF THE PRAYER. The Word of God, as contained in "the Scriptures." We should read ver. 2 thus: "I Daniel understood by the Scriptures the number of the years." The expression is, indeed, most remarkable, and has been laid hold of to impugn Daniel's authorship. This is said in substance: The expression shows that the Old Testament was, when the Book of Daniel was written, complete. It must then have been written after the close of the Old Testament canon; not then by Daniel, but by some one very much later. The author, whoever he was, has inadvertently betrayed himself. The answer would be best given by showing historically the gradual formation of the canon all the way down from Moses, and particularly that from his time even "the Scriptures" had an acknowledged existence. (See Westcott, on 'The Canon,' specially p. 251, in Dr. Smith's 'Dict. of the Bible.' See also Pusey on Jonah 1:1.) Enough for us here to note that Daniel's prayer was founded on the prophecy and promise of Daniel's God. Enough for practical purposes.
III. ITS SOLEMN AND DELIBERATE CHARACTER. Imagine vividly the crisis. The first great world-power had already gone down. How long the second and third might last, who could tell? Then would appear the fourth, during whose existence "one like a Son of man" would come "with the clouds of heaven." The deliverer from captivity (Cyrus) had already appeared - was on the throne of power.
1. Such a prayer could not be breathed amidst life's business. Retirement, leisure, deliberateness, solemnity, were all essential.
2. There had been preparation for it. "Fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes," i.e. the withdrawal of the spirit from the realm of the sensuous, the assumption of the mourner's garb, the sign of abasement and grief, viz. casting ashes on the head.
3. Daniel's mode of speaking implies deliberation and solemnity. "I set my face," etc. "Unto the Lord God," with perhaps the lattice open "toward Jerusalem."
IV. ITS CONTENTS. In a sense we would analyze it; but not so as to dissipate the aroma of its sweetly plaintive devotional spirit.
1. The invocation. (Ver. 4.) In these words we trove:
(1) Some of the glorious attributes of God referred to. And:
(a) His majesty. All great in him.
(b) Fidelity to covenant. Whether the terms be written in the ordinances of heaven, the social constitution of man, the development of providence, the book of the Law, or the gospel of his Son. But "the covenant" specially.
(2) An answering feeling. Dread. Not the abjectness of fear, but the prostration of reverent love.
2. The confession. In it there are the following specialities: The iniquity of the nation is set forth:
(1) In its greatness. Terms that to us are almost synonymous in Daniel's Hebrew set forth the nation's sin as failure, perversity, disturbance, rebellion, departure from all that is holiest and best, disobedience to the one supreme voice.
(2) In its aggravations. The Law disregarded. Prophets unheeded. See the history (2 Chronicles 36:14-16). Divine judgments in vain.
(3) In its universality. The ten tribes "afar off," and the two "near."
(4) In its effects. The fulfilment of oath and curse-in the desolations of temple and city, Church and nation.
3. The vindication of God. (Vers. 7, 8, 11-14.)
4. Complaint. The reproach of the people and the ruin of the sanctuary were the prophet's mighty griefs (vers. 16, 17, 18). "Our desolations."
5. The petition.
(1) The plea. It is for:
(a) The cherishing of anger. (Ver. 16.)
(b) The recognition of the desolation. (Ver. 18.)
(c) The favouring smile of God. (Ver. 17.)
(d) Pardon. (Ver. 19.)
(e) Divine action. (Ver. 19.)
(f) Instant and speedy relief. (Ver. 19.)
(2) Its ground. Observe:
(a) Daniel has never forgotten for a moment the covenant relation of God. Note: "The Lord my God;" "The Lord our God;"
(b) Toward the close all the argument is fetched, not from what man is, but from what God is. "According to all thy righteousness;" "For the Lord's sake;" "The city which is called by thy name;" "For thy great mercies;" "For thine own sake;" "Thy city and thy people are called by thy name."
V. THE ANSWER.
2. Most marked.
3. By angelic envoy.
In conclusion, observe:
1. The noble unselfishness of the prayer. All intercessory.
2. Its consequent prevalence. Every word was answered. Next year out came the edict of Cyrus for the restoration. - R.
I. TRUE PRAYER IS FOUNDED ON KNOWLEDGE OF GOD'S WILL. The reason why Daniel prayed so earnestly for this special blessing was that he knew from Jeremiah's prophecies God's purpose concerning Israel. This knowledge, instead of rendering prayer needless, made it more necessary. For God is no fatalist, He does not absolutely fix a date for certain events without good reason, nor is the fixture made regardless of other events. That date for the termination of Israel's bondage took into account, through the Divine presence, the temper and feeling prevalent among the Jews - took into account even this very prayer of Daniel. Speaking after the manner of men, Daniel's intercession was a foreseen link in the chain of events, and could not be spared. Daniel possibly did not realize the full extent of his responsibility; still, he felt that a turn in the tide of Israel's fortunes was due, that the Divine promise awaited fulfilment, and that much depended on earnest prayer. Hope liberates the tongue of prayer. If God has purposed to bless, we can plead with confident expectation.
II. PRAYER DERIVES ITS INSPIRATION FROM THE CHARACTER AND ATTRIBUTES OF GOD. It is very instructive to note how in this prayer Daniel fastens his eye upon God, contemplates his manifold perfections, and finds in them the fuel with which to feed the fires within his soul. He delights to think on God's greatness - his vast resources of good. He reposes with confidence on the unchanging faithfulness of him who had stooped to make a covenant with Israel. If the nation's sins depress his hopes, the mercy of God far more elates him. He is pleased to contemplate God's infinite righteousness; for that righteousness he can and will convey to his suppliant people. He extracts hope even from the inviolable justice of Jehovah, inasmuch as this attribute secures to men the fullest benefit of every gracious promise. He pleads that anger may be diverted from Jerusalem, "according to the righteousness" of God. Once and again Daniel urges his request "for the Lord's sake" - "for thine own sake, O my God." This is the inexhaustible well of human comfort, viz. that God is what he is. It does not hinder success in prayer that we are so needy and so unworthy. The highest good is accessible, because the Fountain is so vast and so unfailing.
III. PRAYER EMPTIES THE SUPPLIANT OF SELF. The more men pray the more they part with self-confidence, self-righteousness, self-importance, self-seeking. They lose themselves in God. Every form of sin that Daniel could find in his consciousness or in his memory was confessed, and confessed with genuine sorrow. He acknowledges personal and public sins in every variety of language. Positive wickedness, deafness to the Divine voice, neglect of plain commandments, disregard of special messengers, contempt of God's sovereign authority, - all is confessed in a spirit of candour and humility. The axe is laid to the utmost root of pride. His soul is mantled in just shame. There is a complete emptying of self - a needful preparation to be filled with God.
IV. PRAYER IDENTIFIES THE SUPPLIANT WITH OTHERS - 'TIS A VICARIOUS ACT. In prayer we take the place of others, bear their burdens, and make intercession for them. Daniel here pleads for the whole nation. He regards as his own the sins of rulers, kings, priests, and judges. The whole nation is represented in his person. As upon a later occasion, the lives of passengers and crew in the Egyptian ship were saved for Paul's sake, so now the restoration of Israel was due instrumentally to the advocacy of Daniel. A self-righteous man would have repudiated the idea that he was as guilty as others; he would have plumed himself on his superior virtues. Not so Daniel. The sins of the nation he attaches to himself - felt himself, in a sense, responsible for the whole; and seeks Divine favour, not for himself individually, but for the commonwealth of Israel.
V. PRAYER, TO BE SUCCESSFUL, MUST CONSIST IN EARNEST PLEADING. Sensible that so much hung upon his successful suit, Daniel put his whole soul into it, and resolved that he would not fail for want of earnestness. He had risen to the height of the great emergency. He knew that the "set time to favour Zion was now come." Other hindrances were now removed. God waked to be gracious - waited for human prayer as the last link in the chain; and Daniel was chosen to complete the series of preparations. Every possible argument Daniel could conceive or elaborate he employs in his siege of the heavenly citadel. And God permitted this, not on his own account, but to elicit fervent desire and to develop heroic faith. If a man clearly sees the evil which follows from non-success, he will use the most fervid appeal. Or, if he discerns the magnitude of the boon which is in view, he will strain every nerve of his soul to obtain it. Languor in prayer is the offspring of ignorance. Earnestness is only sober wisdom. - D.
I. PRAYER IS THE BEST PREPARATION FOR RECEIVING LARGER REVELATION. The exercise of real prayer develops humility, dependence, self-forgetfulness; and these states of mind are favourable to ingress of light. "The meek will God show his way;" "To that man will he look, who is of humble and contrite heart." Prayer brings the soul near to God; it lifts us up to heavenly elevations; it clears the eye from mist and darkness. The Apostle John was engaged in lonely worship, when the final revelation of Scripture was made to him. Our Lord was in the act of prayer when heaven came down to earth, and his whole Person was enwrapt in glory. The response to Daniel's prayer was immediate. He had not ceased to pray when the answer came. Swifter than the electric current came the oracle's response.
II. LARGER REVELATION COMES BY A PURE AND PERSONAL SPIRIT, We may fairly conclude that angels have larger knowledge of God's will than have we, because they are free from the darkness and the doubt which sin generates. If they are not counsellors in the heavenly court, they are heralds, ambassadors, couriers. What God wills should happen they know is wise and right and good. In their estimation it is an incomparable honour to be engaged on Divine errands. Swift as their natures will allow, they fly to convey instruction or help to men. It is consonant, no less with reason than with Scripture, that there are ranks and orders of intelligent beings with natures more ethereal than ours, and that communication between us and them is possible. Every form of service is attributed to the angels. An angel ministered to our Saviour's bodily hunger. An angel strengthened him in the garden. An angel rolled the stone from his sepulchre. An angel released Peter from prison. Gabriel interpreted the vision to Daniel. Gabriel announced to Zacharias and to Mary the approaching advent of a Saviour.
III. LARGER REVELATION IS AN EVIDENCE OF GOD'S SPECIAL LOVE. The despatch of a special messenger from the court of heaven was in itself a signal token of God's favour. Not often in the history of our race had such a favour been shown. Further, Gabriel was well pleased to assure the man of prayer that, in heaven, he was "greatly beloved." Every act of devotion to God's cause had been graven on the memory of God. His character was an object of God's complacency. On account of God's great love for Daniel he gave him larger understanding, and disclosed to him the purposes and plans for man's redemption. God's intention was that Daniel should enlarge the area of his vision, and look with solicitude, not on Israel after the flesh, but on the true Israel of God. Yet all revelation is a mark of God's love to men. Because men are "greatly beloved" of God, therefore he has given them this complete canon of Scripture, therefore he gives them understanding to discern the meaning, therefore he leads them further into the truth.
IV. LARGER REVELATION IS FOUNDED UPON A TYPICAL PAST. The thoughtful love of God adapted this new revelation to the capacity and mood of Daniel's spirit. Daniel had been dwelling on the seventy years which Jeremiah had declared to be the full period of Israel's captivity. His hope was resting on the fact that the seventy years were accomplished, and that God was faithful to his word. Gabriel was charged to assure the prophet that restoration was nigh at hand, but that other epochs of "seventies" were opening. The desolation of Jerusalem in the past was a type of a sadder desolation yet to come. The visible reconciliation between God and Israel (implied in the restoration of the Jews) was a type of a more complete reconciliation when sin should be purged away. By identifying himself with the nation, and confessing its sins as his own, Daniel himself had become a type of that Deliverer who should "bear our sins" and "make intercession for the transgressors." Time is reckoned in weeks, to remind Israel of the perpetual obligation of the sabbath. After each cycle of desolation rest shall follow, until the world shall enter into the enjoyment of Jehovah's rest. The mind of Daniel is thus carried onward from the consummation he so much desired to a grander consummation still - the appearance of Israel's Messiah; and this vital truth is impressed upon his soul, that no triumph is real or enduring which is not the triumph of righteousness over sin.
V. LARGER REVELATION CENTRES IN THE PERSON AND WORK OF MESSIAH. If now and then God should lift us up to some spiritual height, and give us a wider vision of human destiny, we should be amused and saddened at the littleness of our petitions. Often do we pray and plead for some good, which seems to us a very consummation of blessing; but when we have gained it, we find that there are far larger possessions awaiting us. The desires of Daniel's soul were concentrated on Israel's return to Palestine; yet, at the best, this was only a temporal advantage. Change of place and resumption of worldly power would not in themselves secure nobleness of character or purification of soul. The best blessings of God can be enjoyed anywhere, and amid any outward conditions. But God is too wise and too beneficent to confine his gifts within the limits of human request. "His thoughts are not as our thoughts;" and from inferior restoration to outward privilege, as a starting-point, he leads our expectations onward to a nobler restoration of character and of life. The centre of the world's hope (whether the world so regards it or not) is Jesus the Messiah. Before Gabriel had satisfied Daniel with respect to Israel's earthly fortune, he poured into Daniel's ear what was uppermost in his own mind - the advent of the Son of God. The grandeur, the value, the triumphant issues of Messiah's work, - these were the tidings which he delighted to convey. The revelation which, in any age, man most needs is revelation respecting the removal of sin - knowledge how the great redemption can be accomplished. No tidings from heaven can ever be so joyous as these, viz. that sin shall meet with final destruction, and that reconciliation between God and man is made secure. Such a revelation embraces an enormous sweep of blessing, and comprises every possible interest of humanity. The possession of the earthly Canaan is a very short-lived benefit; the inheritance of heaven is an eternal good.
VI. THE LARGER REVELATION EMBRACES THE FINAL TRIUMPH OF RIGHTEOUSNESS; For the present the outlook of Israel is flecked with light and shade. Like an April day, our present experience is an alternation of blustering storm and bright sunshine. The defences of Jerusalem, Daniel was assured, would be rebuilt, but would be rebuilt amid harassing trouble. Messiah the Prince should in due time appear; but Messiah should be cut off. The city and the sanctuary should rise from the reproach of present ruin, but they would again be destroyed - desolation, like a flood, would sweep over them. Sacrifice should be restored in the temple, but sacrifice and oblation should again cease. These were but temporary arrangements to prepare the world for a real atonement. But the final upshot shall be the destruction of abomination. Upon the desolater there shall be desolation. "All that defileth" shall be exterminated. Death shall die. "Captivity shall be led captive;" "God shall be all in all." - D
Daniel 4:5 (1)), The answer passed on to the next critical event in the developments of God - to the anointing of the Redeemer. It responded to the soul of Daniel's prayer, but weft far beyond it. Divine answers go far beyond "all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20, 21). We had best here anticipate our homiletic line of march by indicating how we read the passage. Literally thus: Hebdomads [sc. of days or years] seventy is cut off in regard to thy people and thy holy city, to close the defection, and to seal up sins, and to cover iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophet, and to anoint the holy of holies."
I. THE SECTION, i.e. of time, here said to be "cut off. But what section of time was cut off - seventy hebdomads of days or of years? It might be said of days, but then we think each day stands for a year. For our part we think the year-day theory very doubtful. We say, therefore, seventy hebdomads of years;" and for the following reasons:
1. The Law had made hebdomads of years familiar. (Leviticus 25:1-4, 8-10.)
2. The magnitude of the events required years. Seventy weeks of days would be only one year and four months - too short a time for the restoration of the city, the advent of Messiah, and the overthrow of the city and nation.
3. To the consolation of Daniel. What comfort for him, pining for the restoration, if all were to be in ruin again within a year or so!
II. ITS PREDICTION. In the substance and form of this prediction of "the seventy sevens" are several specialities.
1. The length of the section is mystically given. "Seventy sevens" is itself mystical. But when we ask - From what moment reckoned, to what moment? a haze of uncertainty envelops the whole subject. The date of Daniel's prayer is about B.C. 538. Four hundred and ninety years on leads to B.C. 48. We believe the four hundred and ninety years are not to be reckoned from the moment of Daniel's prayer; but why this haze and mystery? Because:
(1) Prophecy must not be too explicit. Explicit enough to lead to expectation of the event; but not so explicit as either to suggest its own fulfilment or contribute to its own defeat, Prophecy must not usurp the place of history. Man's moral relations must not be hopelessly entangled by premature and too sharply defined revelations.
(2) Mercy was to be contrasted strongly with judgment. Of desolation seventy years; of comfort and further probation, seventy times seven.
(3) The perfection of the cycle was to be suggested. By the use of sacred numbers. "Seven" has a place peculiar in Scripture, based possibly on facts yet undiscovered in the universe. It is suggestive of perfection. The following sevens form a remarkable accumulation: The prismatic colours; the notes of the octave; Shakespeare's "seven ages;" a man's "seven senses," though the vulgar make them five, the scientific more; the week of creation; our week of days; the week of years; the seven sevens, and then the jubilee year; the branches of the candlestick; at Jericho, trumpets, priests, and days of perambulation; purified seven times; seven times a day do I praise thee; at the bringing up the ark from the house of Obed-edom, they offered "seven bullocks and seven rams;' in the [New Testament, seven Churches, candlesticks, angels, stars, horns, eyes, lamps, spirits of God, trumpets, vials, and seals.
2. The length of the section is very exactly given, however.
(1) Exact enough to excite a general expectation of the Messiah. That Daniel's prophecy did so is notorious.
(2) But also with literal numerical exactness, From the arrival of Ezra to restore Jerusalem ( B.C. 457) to A.D. , the year of the Lord's baptism is 483. 483 is equivalent to seven sevens, and sixty-two sevens. Another half-week of years brings us to the Crucifixion; and consider another three and a half years occupied by the confirmation of the covenant.
3. The section is regarded as one whole. Hence the singular verb with plural noun: "Seventy sevens is cut off."
4. And insulated. "Cut off." A distinct portion of history, like the antediluvian age, the era of Egyptian bondage, the forty years of the desert, the seventy of the Captivity.
5. In the prediction we can see God's fellowship with Daniel. In his prayer, Daniel recognized God's sympathy with Jerusalem; in the answer, God recognizes Daniel's. Daniel had said, "Thy city Jerusalem... thy holy mountain... thy people... thy city and thy people, called by thy name." God now says, "Upon thy people, and upon thy holy city." Thine as well as mine.
III. ITS CLOSE The majestic events which were to signalize Daniel 2:1. The termination of sin. By:
(1) The conclusion of the great rebellion. "To close the defection" - the great falling away of the race from God; to close it, not actually, but potentially. The history of rebellion draws near the finish; and the history of restoration begins.
(2) The limitation of sins. "To seal up sins," to incarcerate them, and to place on the door of the dungeon the king's seal. The breaking the power of sin; the limitation of the number of sins; their entire oblivion, - are all ideas which may well be included here.
(3) The covering of iniquity. "To cover iniquity." Note: In the Old Testament usage "cover" is used in one sense of God, in quite another of man, in relation to sin (see the use of כָּפַד in the Hebrew concordance).
(a) God "covers' sin by forgiving it.
(b) Man, by atoning for it. Now, in this prophecy nothing is said of who "covers;" but history declares it to be Christ. But he is God-Man; and therefore "covers" in the double sense - atones and forgives. He acts as man and as God.
2. The advent of righteousness. "To bring in everlasting righteousness." Many Christians overlook this, are content with pardon, forget that the end of the gospel is righteousness in heart and life. Note, then:
(1) The fact that this great crisis was to be signalized by the advent of righteousness.
(2) The agent. Not named here; but the Christ.
(3) The mode.
(a) By Divine example.
(b) Elevated precept.
(c) Loving persuasion.
(d) Placing morals on a better foundation.
(e) Inaugurating a government of unprecedented character, viz. mediatorial.
(f) A grand act of self-sacrifice, which should awake for virtue the enthusiasm of mankind.
(h) The coming of the Holy Ghost.
(4) Its attribute. "Everlasting.
(a) The method of making men righteous, once introduced, should be unchangeable and perpetual.
(b) The righteousness itself should be one that no change could affect, and no physical dissolution impair or decay.
3. The close of prophecy. To seal up vision and prophet." Four hundred and ninety years passing before the ending of sin, and the advent of righteousness shows the greatness of these events. The sin of all people and of all time was to be effectually dealt with. This was the aspiration of prophecy - prophecy fulfilled, might cease. (Explain from Oriental usage the significance of the sealing.) Christ's words illustrate, "The things concerning me have an end." When once vision and prophet are accomplished by the manifestation of the Sou of God, though prophecy still remains in some respects immensely important, the adoring gaze of the Church is fixed on the Life and Light of men.
4. The anointing of the Lord Jesus. "And to anoint the holy of holies." Outline of the argument for applying this phrase to the consecration of the Messiah.
(1) "Holy of holies" is an indefinite phrase. Therefore examine context and whole field of revelation to determine its application here.
(2) The grammatical gender is uncertain. May be masculine or neuter. But even if neuter, may apply to Christ (Luke 1:35). A certain grandeur of indefiniteness about the neuter.
(4) The preceding clauses of this prophecy lead up naturally to the Messiah.
(5) The "Anointed" must be the same in vers. 24, 25. "And to anoint the Most Holy... unto the Anointed, the Prince," etc.
(6) The chronology favours, demands this conclusion. The "sevens seventy" terminated with the advent of the Lord, and the confirmation of the Divinity of his mission.
(7) Scripture use of the word "anoint," and its application to the Redeemer. (Summarize Scripture teaching on literal anointing; its spiritual significance; and on Jesus as "the Messiah" of the Old Testament and "the Christ" of the New.) A very powerful appeal might well be made to both believer and unbeliever at the close on the following grounds: The great rebellion is broken; limitation has been put upon sin; atonement has been made; everlasting righteousness has been brought in; attention has been concentrated on the Light and Life of men; the Saviour-King has been anointed. Have we broken with the rebellion? Is limitation being put upon our sin? Have we accepted the atonement? Are we putting on the garment of righteousness? Is our gaze on the Life and Light? Is the Anointed our Saviour and King? - R.
I. THE STATE OF MIND DEMANDED FROM THE STUDENT OF PROPHECY,
1. A certain temper. "Know and understand." The angel anticipates difficulties of interpretation. A skilled and spiritual mind necessary. So also industry, pains, care. The worst temper would be the proud, self-sufficient, and dogmatic. Compare words of Jesus, "Whoso readeth, let him understand;" "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."
2. Spiritual insight. "The going forth of the word to restore." Whose?
(1) God's. To see a truth like this demands insight of a spiritual kind. The sovereign word of the Eternal King!
(2) But given through the edict of Cyrus.
II. THE CHRONOLOGY OF THE PASSAGE. We might study separately the prophecy, and then the fulfilment in history. But take them together - study the prophecy in the light of its historical development. But consider the kind of agreement we may expect between the prediction and the history. No greater than the circumstances admit of. Chronological exactness is only to be looked for when the event is defined and limited to some moment in time. But some events develop slowly; e.g. the restoration of a city, the confirmation of a covenant. If events are not defined, prophecy must be indefinite. We suggest the following outline for the preacher, to make all clear (for detail, see the histories, secular and sacred):
1. Before the time-section of four hundred and ninety years. Eighty years from the time of Daniel's prayer to "the restoration," the moment whence the four hundred and ninety are to be reckoned. Here the principal events are: Jerusalem a desolation; the first migration at the decree of Cyrus; the building of the temple only; interruption; Joshua and Zerubbabel; finished in eighteen years, B.C. 534-516. Then fifty-eight years, of which history is silent. The temple standing, but no wall; no city.
2. Commencement of the four hundred and ninety ( B.C. 457). The coming of Ezra, the restoration and rebuilding of the city. "From the going forth of the word to restore," etc.
3. The forty-nine years. "Hebdomads seven and," etc. These are made up thus: Ezra at work alone about twelve or thirteen years; first visit of Nehemiah about twelve years; Nehemiah's return to Persia, and second visit to the time of Joiada becoming high priest (his father, Eliashib, died in B.C. 413), about nineteen or twenty years. This accounts for forty-five out of the forty-nine. The other four may be reckoned to the death of Nehemiah, but the date of his death is lost.
4. The four hundred and thirty-four year's. "Hebdomads sixty and two? This period extends to the baptism of Jesus; i.e. to the public manifestation of "Messiah-Prince." This could be none other than the Redeemer. (Prove this in detail.)
5. The seven years. Three and a half to the Crucifixion; three and a half to establishment of Christianity and the Church.
III. THE ARGUMENT FROM CHRONOLOGY FOR THE DIVINITY OF THE GOSPEL.
1. Its place. Strange that both sceptic and Christian should object to this kind of evidence. The sceptic: "Faith cannot depend on chronology." The Christian: "Questions of events and times do not become the spiritually minded." But the evidences for revelation are not all of one kind, nor all for the same class of mind (see Hengstenberg's 'Christology,' vol. 3:199, Clark's edit.).
2. its value. On this we had better quote Preiswerk: "We ought not, considering the uncertainty of ancient chronology, to lay much stress in calculating the exact year. For, though the calculation be very successful, yet so soon as another interpreter follows, another chronological system, what has been so laboriously reared up is apparently thrown down. But if we grant, from the outset, that ancient chronology is uncertain, and be content to point out a general coincidence of the historical with the prophetical time; if we show that possibly even a minute coincidence took place, and at least that no one can prove the contrary, we shall have done enough to prove the truth of the ancient prophecy, and our work cannot be overthrown by others."
3. Its availability; i.e. to ordinary readers of Scripture. Before Christ, the Jews knew about when to reckon from, and so when to expect Messiah. And now, though learned chronological arguments may not be within reach of the many, yet plain people may come to that simple knowledge of history which shall teach that prophecy has been fulfilled in Christ. - R.
I. THE DEATH OF THE CHRIST.
1. It was to be violent. "Messiah was to be cut off." An ominous and portentous phrase to every Jewish mind. Ever used of the close of the career of the wicked (Exodus 31:14; Psalm 37:9; Proverbs 2:21, 22). The phrase implies a supernatural agent too; so in this case (Acts 2:23).
2. Without cause. In Hebrew, literally, "There is nothing to him." The Septuagint gives the meaning doubtless: Καὶ κρίμα οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν αὐτῳ. "In him was no sin;" he "did no sin;" he "knew no sin." Pilate's verdict: "I find in him no fault at all."
II. THE DESTRUCTION OF THE JEWISH POLITY.
1. The instruments. "And the people of a prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary." That the prince is not the Christ is evident:
(1) Because of his designation - simply "a prince."
(2) He is to "come" clearly from without the Jewish state.
(3) His invasion was to be after the death of Messiah. So the context indicates. History shows that the prince was Titus.
2. The mode. "And its end with inundation, and to the end, war; decree of desolations." The foreign army should sweep everything before it. The war was to be exterminating. No intermission of calamity until no city was left on which calamity could fall.
3. The reason. Note the inner connection of the passage between the cutting off of Messiah and the fall of the city and polity - between Calvary and the coming of Titus (Luke 19:41-44). When Christ wept over the city, the nation in heart had rejected him. Formally, and in so many words, in the course of a few days they discarded their only Saviour. For that rejection, city and nation descended into the abyss. As it was at the end of the Jewish economy, so shall it be at the close of the Christian. The condemnation will not be sin, but rejection, or neglect of the sinner's Saviour (John 3:18).
III. THE CONFIRMATION OF THE COVENANT.
1. The Confirmer. The Lord Jesus. His august Personality has been prominent throughout. The actions described in ver. 24 are his. In Isaiah 42:1-7, specially in ver. 6, Christ is described as Divine Covenant incarnate.
2. The covenant. Neither the old nor the new, but that one comprehensive covenant of salvation, of which they were transcripts.
3. Its confirmation was by the Redeemer's words of grace, miracles, and death; by the Pentecostal effusion; by the first preaching of the gospel, especially to the Jews.
4. The time. From the commencement of the Lord's ministry to about the time of the death of Stephen and the scattering of the Jewish Church - about seven years. By that time the nation rejected both the Messiah and that Spirit who came with Pentecostal power and grace. Then was the nation dead, waiting for the fire of the Divine judgments. The "hebdomads seventy" were ended. Henceforth the history in the Acts of the Apostles turns to the Gentiles.
5. With whom. "With many." But all showed the nation's sin.
IV. THE CESSATION OF SACRIFICE. "He shall cause the sacrifice," etc., that is, Christ the Lord.
1. In mercy. The sacrifices might cease:
(1) either literally;
(2) or, their object accomplished, they might become useless, and in time disappear. In the latter sense they were made to cease. No need of the finger of the type, when the glory of the Antitype filled the world. Herein mercy. He offered up sacrifice for the people's sins "once, when he offered up himself." "Once in the end of the world" he "put away sin by the sacrifice of himself."
2. In judgment. Not long was it ere in judgment they ceased literally.
3. In permanence. Ceasing, they cease for ever, and no power of man can ever restore what has been doomed by God. (See description of the signal attempts of Julian the Apostate to restore the sacrifices, and its remarkable failure, an Dr. Smith's Dict. of the Bible, art. Jerusalem, by James Fergusson, vol. 1:1015, b.) "The Word of our God stands for ever."
V. THE CONSUMMATION We read, "And upon the wing of abominations, a desolator; even until destruction, and that determined, shall be poured upon the desolate." The passage would be difficult before the events, intentionally so, but not so difficult after. The design was, perhaps, to throw out fragments of thought rather than give a continuous idea; to light up with lightning rather than with sunshine. After speaking of the cessation of sacrifice, attention is fixed on the temple, some high point of it, soaring portion, "wing." A "wing of abominations," the temple hateful on account of its corruptions. The temple must become detestable
(1) by corruption;
(2) from within, ere any desolator is allowed to touch it. Note the lesson well. But having become abominable, look! watch! behold the desolator, i.e. the Roman! But how long shall the Roman eagle look down upon the temple threateningly? "Until destruction, and that which is decreed, shall be passed upon the desolate." Daniel's prayer was offered in sight of a desolate Jerusalem; the vision opened by the angel ends with a desolation more appalling. "How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" - R.